How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Design Competition

How to run a successful crowdsourcing campaign

Crowdsourced design challenges of contests are a great tool for entrepreneurs and companies looking to field a variety of different potential designs. A well-run contest can produce dozens (or even hundreds!) of entries from qualified designers with different skillsets and backgrounds, and can be a great way for coming up with an innovative solution to your design problem.

Crowdsourcing is an exciting new model, it’s not guaranteed to hand you everything you want on a silver platter. Having the proper expectations and planning can make the difference between a successful crowdsourcing campaign and a flop. So here’s a few general guidelines to help you run a crowdsourced design contest.

1. Know What You Want: Set Clear Project Expectations

Having clear objectives and well-defined expectations is important both for your ability to successfully organize a crowdsourcing project and for your contributors to hit the mark with their submissions. A successful design competition needs to be sufficiently well thought-out if you want to attract top-level applicants.

Launching your crowdsourced design contest shouldn’t be the first step in your product design process. In order for the crowd to be able to generate meaningful and innovative solutions, the problem has to be well defined. Without some established parameters, contributors will be swinging in the dark. You’ll be much more likely to generate interest in your campaign and to arrive at a design that you can feel great about if you’re able to clearly spell out your project expectations in the contest description.

Don’t jump the gun on starting a crowdsourcing campaign before you have a pretty good idea of what you hope to get out of the project. The early stages of the design process are critical to the ultimate success of the product, so you want to make sure you know what it is you’re trying to accomplish, and that you be able to communicate that mission in your contest description.

If you can, include drawings or 3D sketches of what you hope to achieve, or your ideas so far. These obviously don’t need to be a blueprint for the contestants to follow (otherwise there would really be no point to the contest!), but it’s useful to provide designers with a sense of what you’re looking for. The end product doesn’t have to look exactly like your initial sketches, but having a model as a starting point can help give some creative direction.

Before you launch your contest, you should have some idea of the types of materials your product will be made from, and you might have some expectations as to how you will go about manufacturing once you get to that stage. This is information you want to include in your project description, as these sorts of details can have a big impact on product design.

The clearer you are in your expectations and goals, the more motivated talented designers will be to submit proposals. Serious designers want to work on serious projects. Remember that while the potential prize is a big motivator, another reason people participate in crowdsourcing is the opportunity to work on exciting and interesting projects.

The more submissins your contest receives, the more likely you are to find the perfect design. And the number and quality of submissions will likely reflect both the prize amount you set and the degree to which you can generate genuine interest in your project.

2. The Prize Must Be Right

There’s an old addage: you get what you pay for. Well, with crowdsourcing you tend to get more than what you pay for. But, while one of the great things about crowdsourced design competitions is the flexibility it offers to entrepreneurs or companies in getting submissions from talented product designers, there’s no such thing as a free lunch! While you’re able to set the prize level for your contest, keep in mind that skilled applicants will be turned off if your contest prize isn’t proportional to the task you are setting.

It is pretty much guaranteed that contests with higher prizes will receive more submissions (and therefore get the attention of more qualified designers) than contests with lower prizes. That doesn’t mean that you will only receive decent submissions if you can offer a bigger prize than any contest in recent memory — not at all. If your project is interesting, you’re likely to get submissions even for modest prizes.

What’s important though is that you treat designers with respect, and value their time and creativity appropriately. Crowdsourcing design contests aren’t a tool for getting free design work — if that’s what you’re looking for, then you’re barking up the wrong tree.

While crowdsourced design contests might be more cost effective in some cases, they aren’t merely a low budget alternative to conventional product development. If you want to see really viable submissions, then offer a reasonable reward for the winners. The real value of crowdsourcing is in the diversity of submissions you receive. The better your prize, the more submissions, the higher the value of your contest.

3. Communicate With Designers

As with any working relationship, communication is key to getting the most from your design challenge. We’ve already talked about the importance of communicating your expectations in the contest description, but your communications shouldn’t end there. Once you have submissions coming in, keep a dialogue going with designers and give them feedback about their ideas and maybe provide them with some additional direction

If you get a submission that you feel is definitely headed in the right direction, but is missing certain features or properties which would really put it over the top, then let the designer know! Don’t be afraid to communicate your vision with the designers. If you build a solid relationship, you’ll have a qualified and trusted designer that you can turn to for future design projects.

Product design is a dynamic process, and one of the great benefits of crowdsourcing design is that inspiration can be coming at you from a number of different directions at once. So if you find yourself being energized by a particular approach or idea, share that with your contributors and the design process can really take off. One of the greatest advantages of crowdsourcing is in the potential to find inspiration from so many diverse designers.

4. Be Ready to Take the Next Steps

Don’t expect that you’ll be ready to launch right into manufacturing the moment your design contest closes! You’ve still got some work ahead of you before you’ll be ready to take your awesome new design to production. As with any creative project, momentum is key: getting stalled can mean the loss of valuable time and resources.

Once you’ve got the design, you need to start working out the details which will allow you to bring that design into the world. A CAD design can look astounding as a 3D model, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will translate smoothly into an actual 3D object in the real world! Prototyping is key to any successful design campaign.

Ideally, you’ll have some idea of the materials you intend to build your product from, an will have included that in the project description (see above). Talented industrial designers will be able to use that information when drafting their submissions. While you’re waiting for the contest deadline, get yourself prepared for prototyping and testing. Have an idea of where you’ll source materials or who you’ll contract for prototyping. One option, which we certainly recommend, is to take advantage of Cad Crowd’s prototyping service.

Are you ready to post your design contest? Head over to our Contest page and get started today!